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From Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, series 1, volume 25, part 2, pp. 746-747

Headquarters Pender's Brigade

April 23, 1863

[Major Walter H. Taylor [1],

Assistant Adjutant General, Army of Northern Virginia]


          “I would beg leave to call the attention of the commanding General to the state of affairs that exists in the North Carolina regiments of the army, and the causes which, in my opinion, have brought it about. I think I am safe in saying that at least 200 men have deserted from the Twenty-fourth North Carolina Regiment in this corps within the last thirty days. This, sir, I fear is not the worst of it, for unless some prompt measures be taken to arrest those already deserted, and severe punishment be inflicted after they shall be caught, the matter will grow from bad to worse. In my humble opinion, the whole trouble lies in the fact that they believe when they get into North Carolina they will not be molested, and their belief is based upon the dictum of Judge Pearson[2], chief justice of the State, in a recent trial of persons who killed some militia officers while in the discharge of their duties. I have not seen the judge’s proceedings in the case, but our men are of the opinion that he held that the conscript law was unconstitutional, and hence they draw the conclusion that enrolled conscripts will not only be justified in resisting the law, but that those who have been held in service by the law will not be arrested when they desert. This conclusion is borne out by the facts. I have heard from a reliable gentleman that the conscripts and deserters go unmolested in Yadkin County, North Carolina, and Sergeant Grose, of my brigade, who has just returned, was told by the militia officers of that county that they should not arrest any more deserters in the face of Judge Pearson’s holding unless protected by the Government, and the boldness of the deserters there proves that they are acting up to their word. Letters are received by the men, urging them to leave; that they will not be troubled when they get home. It would strike me that the holding alluded to brings only the individual [page 747] dictum of one of the three judges and could be binding only in that particular case. What I have stated concerning Yadkin, I fear, holds good elsewhere, and, unless some check is put upon it, will work great and serious injury to the cause. I would suggest a regiment be sent to that section of the State to arrest deserters. Any effort to arrest them between here and home must be only partial at best, and, when we get on the march, totally impracticable. Unless something be done, and quickly, serious will be the result. Our regiments will waste away more rapidly than they ever have by battle.

          In writing the above, I wish to be just to my State, and must say that I think that too many of the troops of other States of the Confederacy would act as ours are doing if they thought they could with safety. I am anxious that my State and her troops shall not lose the credit they have so justly earned in the war by the conduct of a few bad men.

I am, sir, very respectfully,

W.D. Pender[3],

Brigadier General



General Pender states to me that they men go off with their arms in squads. They can thus band together in the State with other malcontents, and produce great trouble, defy the law, &c.

R.E. Lee,


[1] Walter Herron Taylor (1838-1916) was Robert E. Lee's assistant adjutant general, dealing with the bureaucratic administration of the Army of Northern Virginia and its headquarters.  

[2] Richmond Mumford Pearson (1805-1878) was chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1858-1878, who was known for ruling in favor of individuals arrested by the Confederate authorities regarding military service, especially those who appealed to him after being subject to the Conscription Law of April 1862. 

[3] William Dorsey Pender (1834-1863) was an Edgecombe County native and West Point graduate (Class of 1854) who became a brigadier general in the Army of Northern Virginia. He would die from wounds received at the battle of Gettysburg. 

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